Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Latent Honeymoon; Days four and five

Day Four and Five: Getting’ in that Florida groove

                It’s incredible how quickly we have adopted that laid-back, it’s all good, mentality. Maybe it’s the heat and humidity; movement + effort = sweat. It could be that I’m still a tad shell-shocked from my job, and my brain is shutting down for a re-boot. Most likely, however, it’s the people down here.

                I’ll admit it flat out. I’m a New England snob. You think you have spurts of crap weather? BAH, we have damn near every weather related disaster on a regular basis and we hang in there. You call that pizza? Chinese food? A hospital? You’re kidding me, right? It’s probably that southern US stigma I carry and my narrow minded perceptions that bolster perceived superiority.

                Now I lived in warmer climates, Southern California to be more specific. But in the three and a half years of living there and a week-long visit recently, I never warmed to the place (pun intended). Something about it, lying just under the surface that I couldn’t put my finger on, irked me. The song Hotel California seemed to sum it up for me on a subliminal level. Las Vegas was even worse. One week was a lifetime there.

                But so far, I love Florida. Being slightly paranoid by nature and occasionally confrontational by choice, I’ve yet to feel like prey. There’s a sincerity and politeness that we’ve encountered everywhere we’ve been (the hotel pool and bad restaurant as exceptions). Sure, it’s a tourist trap on one level, but we haven’t been treated like a mark.

                Case in point: Last night.

                We found another charming restaurant that could hold its own with many from Boston’s North End. Garlic invaded our senses from the parking lot, the service was attentive and friendly and the quality and quantity of food was superb. Being a weeknight, we were even able to park our now beloved rented steed on the street directly in front of the establishment. Downtown Stuart is a charming place, accommodating for walks and decorated with fountains and an astonishing lack of litter. It’s like a theme park with the only theme being ‘we give a crap how our town looks’.

                Granted, with a couple small blemishes, we have been supremely fortunate during our stay, enough so that the wife said something that should have put a cryogenic freeze on my spinal column, but instead only provided a small chill.

                “I could live down here.”

                I did point out a few logistical issues like family location, lack of employment, 90+% humidity wreaking havoc with her curly hair and, most importantly, during the summer months Florida is only 12 miles from the sun. Early September is likely not the best representation sample for long-term weather. Still, I had to give the suggestion some consideration. I could take Florida, but could Florida take me – long term?

                Of course, I’d need a job with a pay rate that approximates my present salary. I’d also need to lose that high-strung NE mindset (no small feet). I think I’d also need a 2012 Camry and a place near the shore, but capable of withstanding hurricanes.

                But enough of all that. I can daydream on the issue after my return. For now I’ll deal with the present and change it up. I’m going to write my first Car & Driver grade car review.

Car: 2012 Toyota Camry LE

Price: $23,700 (approx.) or, 33% of the cost of the Audi A8 in saw in flames on the side of the highway during the ride down here.

Engine: 2.5 liter four cylinder, 178 hp.

Seats: 5 actual life-sized people/ 10 Kate Moss’s / 2 Cape buffalo

Cargo capacity: As much luggage as my wife can pack with none of it invading the back seat.

Demographic: Old farts and people that don’t want to think about their car as more than an appliance.

Cop visibility: Next to zero (trust me on this one).

Performance: It has plenty. Easily faster than my old ’73 Camaro except it turns and stops.

Fuel mileage: More than I have any right to expect with my lead foot and limited patience (31 mpg AVERAGE between highway and congested in-town traffic)

Interior room: Bigger than my first apartment and far better equipped.

Options: None.

Color: Stealth Fighter gunmetal metallic.

On the road: AC is meat locker grade, ride is tight, Radio kicks ass, handling is solid and it will obliterate any sport ute imaginable from a stop light. After a three hour flight to Orlando, the seats actually soothed on the remaining 2.5 hour drive here, allowing us to remain mobile and active until the wee hours during our first night here (We were both up since 4am, bear in mind). The wife has yet to ask for the keys and it may boil down to an arm-wrestling match if she does. It eats miles like I kill potato chips.

Nits: The sill is high for the wife and for resting elbows on the widow frame when the window is down. It also tricks you into believing 80mph is actually 60. The speedometer needs a settable alarm.

Subjective: I want one. The wife isn’t even arguing the point which is scary good news.

But enough of that. We are off today to pretend we are studied intellectuals that are environmentally conscious, meaning were headed to the Florida Oceanographic Institute to witness some of the un-releasable endangered species they keep in a secured lagoon.

Irony alert! After that, the wife wants to try a local dish called ‘onion encrusted dolphin’. I may or may not mention that during the tour.

She may get to drive the car after all if I do…

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